14 ft kayak decision

Hi, Forum noob here,

Im trying to decide between 3 kayaks available at REI (cause Ive got $300 buck divedend to help there), if anyone has experience or suggestions, as I will have to order without paddling or even sitting in them …

I am from minnesota, and the kayak is to be a higher performance upgrade addition to 2 used and abused Pungos (12 ft and 14 ft) Ive had for about a decade. I tend to paddle the flat water St Croix river most often. I also frequent more twisty small rivers with up to class II. I would like to be able to paddle on lake Superior as well, and hence learn more advanced sea kayak technique ie eskimo roll, edging, surfing etc …

I also fish from my kayaks (the pungos are good for that tho), and camp up to several nites on river trips.

Regarding boat fit, I weigh 150lbs and am 5’ 10" with thin build but fairly solid thighs from much skatesking and cycling.

Boats under consideration are:

Perception Expression $999 skeg

Dagger Alchemy 14S $1299 skeg

Elie Strait 14xe $1099 rudder

I am leaning towards the Alchemy due to all the good reviews, but is it too squirrely for flat water? Or really a good compromise between flat water tracking with skeg down and still having skeg up manueverability for twisting small rivers n rapids? S is a better fit than the L for my size?

Expression looks fine but I think I need at least a day hatch that it lacks, after all Im used to all the room in the pungo. There are few reviews as it’s a new model.

Elie Strait looks ok but its a bit wider ie 24.5 inches vs the other two are 23 inches, and leans abit towards being a rec kayak (and Ive already got pungos), rather than performance. Im dubious about the need for the rudder also.

Any thoughts re these boats are appreciated, thank you.

Final question: where the heck do you put your beer? Performance boats dont have a cupholder and,

Im spoiled by the crotch cupholder in the pungo. Obviously this doesnt apply to surfing or whitewater, but sometimes you want a beer when yer paddling!

I Recently Bought an Alchemy

– Last Updated: Apr-15-12 10:36 AM EST –

The smaller one. If I was going to paddle a great lake on a breezy day I think the Alchemy would be the thing to have. I'm kinda picky about how my boat fits so I moved the seat back and took out that stiffening hardware. Yeah, if you plan to get skills and go into more challenging stuff, get the Alchemy. The smaller one is the one you want but you may want to move the seat back like I did.

Holding the beer
Most people have the misunderstanding that those beer holding hats with the sipping tubes were invented for sporting events. In reality they were invented by former canoeists who for various reasons found themselves having to paddle kayaks. :slight_smile:


paddle each
Find a way to paddle each of them. You definitely don’t want to make a decision based on marketing specs and what others like. That info is good for getting to the point of considering a boat (basically where you are at now), but the final decision should be made after you have paddled the boats yourself.

California Kayaker Magazine had a short article on this in the most recent issue (Spring 2012 - called “Getting Butt Time”). Can be read online for free at http://www.calkayakermag.com/magazine.html.

not an expert, but
sounds as though you want it all, and that’s close to impossible fwiw I have only tried the alchemy of your set and it’s a really nice boat. very tight, but also highly maneuverable. don’t think squirrelyt at all, think of it as a leap into longer touring realm by a company well regarded for whitewater kayaks, and you’ll get a good idea of what it is and how it performs. i triedit on flatwater, btw, in a day of trying 5 or more lines of 14-17’ kayaks.

one or two paddling buddies have the 16’ perceptions, so i’ve paddled flatwater beside them and can see why they’re satisfied, and both have gone out on bay andocean open water satisfyingly wsith them. they do not appear as tight a fit asalchemy.

the adage about ‘wearing a kayak, more than fitting in one’ describes the alchemy to my percerption, so be warned that it’s more a sports car than a sedanorsuv.

hope any of that helps.

if you have an rei within reach they must have a demo optiuon availkable, plus they are good about returns.

thx all
I would love to paddle them first but the Elie is the only boat that the local REIs have in stock … the others are mail order only. Of course at REI one can return anything easily, but it doesnt help you compare. Other dagger dealers in town dont have the Alchemy to try either.

The sports car analogy is helpful … I have the suv already in the pungos… I am looking for something thats fun to paddle and responsive, ie makes me feel blown away like I do on my light new road bike vs my old beater bike.

The Alchemy S is smaller volume… I assume its not so small on storage that I couldnt camp out of it?

I use my lite backpacking gear when kayak camping so can camp 2 nites out of even the 12 foot pungo.

No test paddle = no sale

– Last Updated: Apr-15-12 3:41 PM EST –

I remember REI doing kayak demo in Michigan
It's how I bought my Dagger Crossover 10 years ago
I've spent thousands at REI, love the store.

Always demo a boat, at the very least sit in it,
on land, - and figure out how your feet, legs, torso,
arms, - and the paddle you want - come together.

People try on shoes, backpacks and sleeping bags
- try the kayak on at the very least.

Re the Beer
I like it kept in a cooler, ashore - way, way too many boating fatalities involve alcohol consumption. I personally have a absolutely strict ‘no booze’ policy - if you want to paddle (or sail), let’s go - if you want to drink, I’ll see you later, 'cause I’m going paddling…

To have something to sip on the water, I half-fill a one-liter plastic pop bottle with water, freeze it, and jam it under the deck rigging. If you want to bring cans, you can make a ‘beer sock’. Take an old sock, cut off the leg part just short of a can-length, sew the bottom of that shut, and attach a cord to each side - pop the can in, and it just hangs around your neck. Works like a charm…

Cold water paddling

– Last Updated: Apr-15-12 10:18 PM EST –

I do not know how much cold water paddling you do but I have seen the elie build up ice on the seam where the deck meets the hull, this could be an issue in Minn. if you try to extend your season.
I have used the Dagger as a loaner boat and found it to be pretty stable, the thigh braces are very adjustable and can be easily removed to open up some space for floor storage. You might try the L model as there may be a little more adustability, you cannot make the S any bigger but the L can be adjusted for a tighter fit.

Those kayaks…
…might be a little wide and short for someone of your stature and with your goals. You really do need some saddle time before you take the leap.

There should be some demo days somewhere in your neck of the swamp where you can put in some seat time.

As for a beverage holder, I can tell you what I’ve done on several kayaking trips: I wear a CamelBak. But this might mean that you would need to switch to wine, rather than beer. A nice thing about a CB is that it keeps your preferred liquid cool via getting it wet and the evaporative process. And keeping it wet is a good motivator for working on your roll.

dont know storage but about fit
i’m 185 lb and 5’11" at this age. alchemy was tight for me. i thought it might be the s version, yet store guy insisted it was the l. at my size icould not have gone smaller; might work for you, but advice below about being ableto tughten up a large while NOT being able to open up a small is serious consideration. i felt stable and highly responsive fun boat, andnot slow either. can’t say about camping; do feel you might like it in rock gardening for example.

doesn’t feel to me like good chioice for fishing at all. hope that helps.


– Last Updated: Apr-16-12 9:33 AM EST –

I'm almost exactly your size. I've paddled the 14S a couple of times and enjoyed it, but I like snug-fitting, maneuverable boats.

Tracking is very subjective. A few hours in a whitewater boat will make almost any longer boat seem to track well.

Another good 14 footer
If you are going to all the demo days and trying out 14 footers, I’d also recommend the Current Designs Kestral 140.

It is now available in plastic or composite with a very open cockpit like the Pungo or a more traditional closed cockpit. It seems a little faster than the Alchemy but it still responds to edging well.

“A few hours in a whitewater boat …
A few hours in a whitewater boat will make almost any longer boat seem to track well”

Really… aside from a Pintail :wink:

Expression 14.5 has more foot room
than Alchemy 14S, but still fit me pretty well at 5’6" and 160 lbs without large thighs like yours.

I tried both boats on for fit at Canoecopia, but haven’t paddled either.

Fair enough
I should have “better”, not “well”, out of consideration for Pintail owners. :wink:

It is true, though. I used to help teach a beginning whitewater class. The first session was always on a pond. We’d see self-described “experienced” kayakers start off not being able to go more than a couple of boat lengths in a straight line, but by the end of the session they’d all be doing much better.

PFD Pocket
If you can’t find any other place to hold a beer get a pfd with a front pocket, keeps it close and safe, can even drink from a straw from it if you are so inclined.

Just try to remember it is there if you have to pick anything up off the ground, or else you get wear, beer smelling feet…